Food is such a vital part of our daily lives - but why is it important for our mental health?
There are strong links between what we eat and how we feel. Things like caffeine and sugar can have an immediate effect, whereas the lack of other more vital nutrients may have a long term impact if we are not getting enough.
We mostly think about food and diet as being good for our physical health and wellbeing, however evidence suggests that getting a balanced diet is also good for our mental health, and helps us with things such as clearer thinking and more energy.
One of the symptoms of both depression and anxiety is a change in appetite, which can cause our eating habits to fluctuate. Some quick tips to help with this, are to try to eat little and often throughout the day, or setting alarms to remind yourself to eat and drink at regular intervals. Try to ensure you are eating slow release energy foods, rather than sugary things that will lead your blood sugar levels to spike and drop erratically. Some good foods to start the day are protein foods, oats, nuts and seeds. It might take your gut time to get used to a new eating pattern, so make changes slowly to give yourself time to adjust.
There are certain foods that are good for boosting mood, some examples are:
Oily fish – enhance aspects of brain function, including mood and memory.
Nuts – contain important minerals that help mental health. For example Walnuts which help replace B vitamins critical for mood.
Seeds – some of nature’s best mood boosters
Green tea – has been used for centuries to regulate blood sugar, and for relaxation and mood benefits.
Eggs – full of nutrients and high in protein, so help to stabilise blood sugar which is critical for mood.
Dark chocolate – contains an amino-acid called tryptophan, which works as a precursor to serotonin and low levels of this contribute to anxiety and low mood. Tryptophan is also a natural sleep inducer. The higher cocoa content the better – aim for at least 70%.
Are you drinking too much caffeine?
Caffeine is a stimulant, which can mimic some of the symptoms of anxiety and also disturb your sleep. It is best to avoid consuming any caffeine (in coffee, tea, coke, chocolate) for at least 4-6 hours before going to bed.
- Eat little and often throughout the day
- Choose less refined sugar foods
- Eat a wide variety of foods, particularly different colours to ensure you are getting a mix of vitamins and minerals.
- Include protein at each meal
- Drink plenty of water
- Try adjusting your diet to see whether food is affecting your mood, even a short period of avoiding processed, sugary foods can make a big difference.
- Caitlin Sellar